PA Chamber Director of Government Affairs Kevin Sunday raised the alarm about the consequences for Pennsylvania’s economy and energy security if the state fails to harness its abundant natural gas resources.
At a joint informational hearing last week before the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee and the Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, Sunday began by highlighting Pennsylvania’s status as an international energy hub and the subsequent economic and environmental benefits of this status by sharing the following facts:
- PA is the second largest energy producing state in the nation and the largest in the 13 state PJM grid;
- The natural gas boom has led to a 34 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions since 2005 (second in the nation in reductions.) These efforts have led to the state achieving the mandates set forth by the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan for 2030; and
- Declines in air emissions have been coupled with reductions in price. In 2020, wholesale prices across PJM were the lowest in 15 years, while Europe lags behind PA and countries including India and China have actually increased their emissions.
Despite these encouraging trends, disruptions in pipeline development spurred by misguided activism and regulatory barriers have led to delays outright cancellations of critical projects. Most recently, PennEast announced its decision to table a 116-mile natural gas pipeline that would have pumped $1 billion into the regional economy, following constant resistance from factions within New Jersey and an inability to secure environmental permits to get the project underway.
As to the impact of pipeline development on national energy security, Sunday testified that the North American Electric Reliability Corporation has said New England’s energy security is in the balance; and ISO-NE, the grid operator for New England, has “plainly stated there is a need” for additional pipeline infrastructure from PA and other Appalachian states to the region. New Englanders also pay the highest electricity rates in the nation. In addition, the ISO-NE warned in 2018 that without new gas infrastructure it will likely have to impose rolling blackouts and managed outages during future winters.
Sunday elaborated on the impact on Pennsylvania when pipeline projects are stalled, noting that PA loses out on 22,000 jobs and $2.4 billion in state GDP. He cited researchers at the Columbia University’s Center for Global Energy Policy who have reported that expanded investment in natural gas infrastructure is necessary to meet climate goals, stating that “while it may seem counterintuitive, investing more in the domestic natural gas pipeline network could help the US reach net-zero emission goals more quickly and cheaply. Fortifying and upgrading the system could prepare the existing infrastructure to transport zero-carbon fuels as they become available.”
“It is important to take a step back and recall that while electricity may be delivered via regional grids, the energy markets are truly global in nature,” Sunday stated. “The decisions Pennsylvania and its neighboring states make have global consequences. As noted prior in this testimony, attempts to reduce supply or transmission do not to a great extent impact demand for natural gas – instead, it will be met at the margins by importing LNG from countries that do not share the United States’ commitment to human rights or environmental standards.”
Sunday’s full testimony to the committee can be viewed here.